Some years ago, I had customized an old cargo van to be able carry my Harley on the inside, cross-country, unexposed to the weather. The outside of the van looked pretty ragged, on purpose, in order to keep curiosity about the contents down to a minimum. All I had to do was to remove the Harley’s windshield, drop the ramp, drive the Harley into the back of the van, put on the straps and away I could go.
I usually traveled from the east to the west coast on a certain interstate that had seen more than its share of trouble. I carried a .357 Trooper with hollow points as a car gun. I had a $20,000 touring bike that I did not want to lose, plus I carried a lot of cash because people were a little more suspicious of bikers in those days and many were understandably reticent when it came to accepting a credit card.
I had stopped outside of a fast food place for coffee break, just off the interstate and under a scraggly tree giving me limited shade. I had backed into the space, an old habit, better to see the parking lot. After going through the drive-through, I was relaxing, eating my burgers and drinking my coffee, and keeping an eye on the local denizens.
One of the local fellows approached the van on the passenger side, signaling me to lower the window, while another young caballero moved to my side and leaned on a car one space away. I always traveled with the passenger side window only cracked a couple of inches and all five doors on the cargo van securely locked, so I did not roll down the window.
He was friendly enough as he commented that I looked like his kind of guy and would I like to come down to the barrio for a couple of beers and some partying, all this while peering into the van. I kept the conversation light and friendly, saying I was not interested and thanked him. We both knew what was going on. He pressed the point but left after I firmly told him I was going to be on my way shortly. That seemed to go well, and he left in a blue sedan with two friends, but I kept my vigilance. I finished my lunch and coffee, cancelled a trip to the can so that the van would not be unattended, figuring I could use a rest stop later, further down the road. I checked the straps on the scooter and was preparing to leave when my old friend pulled back into the lot, this time with maybe six friends in the car.
I started the engine as the blue beater sedan pulled up in front of the van so I could not leave the parking space. I loosened my Trooper from under the seat. My dad gave me that gun after I got out of the service and told me that it was better to, “Have it and not need it, than need it and not have it.” I had been glad to have that Trooper with me a couple of times, but this time looked a little more serious.
Again the friendly caballero came up to the van, this time on the driver side, the window was down. He told me pointedly that I should come down to the barrio with him now, and that one of his friends would ride with me to show me the way. His face was smiling but his eyes were not. I realized at that point that this was not going to be resolved in a friendly way. I leaned toward the smiling idiot, looked him in the eyes and very softly said, “Listen.” Then I pulled the hammer back on the Trooper… it has a distinctive sound that no one could possibly misunderstand or misidentify. But just to further his education, I then told him, “That is the quietest sound a .357 makes. Don’t make me shoot a hole in my door. Go away and get your car out of my way!” He complied, all the while swearing that he only meant to be friendly with a kindred spirit.
Though he and his friends followed me for about 25 miles down the Interstate, they never approached close enough to be a threat, though I am sure they were trying to figure out how to get me to ‘come on down to the Barrio for a visit.’ My Dad has passed away now, but I still have that Trooper and I have passed his gem of advice about being aware and armed on to my children.
NOT SO EASY PICKINS
My new job this year put me working as a counselor for teenage felony offenders. My job was to get them back in school, make sure they made it to their court dates, and attempt to redirect their lives towards something positive. After hearing many of their stories and making several home visits, I was compelled to get my concealed carry license.
My daily carry was a Taurus Millennium Pro 9mm loaded with 12 hollow points with a spare magazine in the glove box. This presented a few sticky situations, since I routinely had to travel to public schools. Due to the existing laws, I was forced to park off campus and leave my gun locked in the car on these trips. We need some new legislation on that one.
On this particular day, I got a call from a young man who was on house arrest and court ordered to leave home only to attend school. He had been arrested for phoning in a pizza delivery order, then jacking up the delivery guy with a 12 gauge shotgun while several of his gang member buddies punched and robbed the poor unexpecting pizza guy. He was now out on bail and awaiting trial. Today he had missed the bus, and needed me to come pick him up to get to school so he wouldn’t be locked back up.
As I drove into his neighborhood, it had occurred to me that this scenario was exactly like his previous armed robbery. He knew when I was coming, knew I would be alone, and may have thought I was an easy target like the pizza guy had been. In fact, as I pulled within 50 yards of his house, he was standing on the curb with another fella who was dressed in a red bandana and wearing a heavy jacket with his hands in his pockets. I calmly stopped my vehicle about 25 yards away and flipped the thumb safety off the Taurus. I checked my mirrors to make sure I wasn’t about to be jumped from behind.
The young man and I made eye contact, and he held his hands up as if to say, “Pull on up, what ya waiting on?” I kept my position and never broke eye contact with him, letting him know I was not at all intimidated. He may have never known I had the 9mm in my lap, but he knew I was not about to walk right into a trap. After several seconds, he said something to the other guy who then walked off slowly. I waited a little longer, and then tucked the Taurus back in my waistband as my student came and got in the car. He got in quietly and we rode to his school with no problem with an unspoken understanding that if he was looking for an easy target, he had picked the wrong one this time.